"Scream" Review
© 1997 Fontaine L.
- spoilers -

"Movies don't create psychos, they make psychos more creative!" -- Billy

"Scream" was highly satisfying. As a scary movie, that is. First of all it doesn't give us any "Oh, Look I'm a Smart Movie and I Create Suspense and I Build Up Character" crap. Less than one second after the "Dimension Films" logo appears, the phone rings and the frightfest begins. No crap at all. There are no moral lessons in the ending. The bad guys are dead, and the movie ends. Bam, just like that. And although "Scream" started out with genius and ended on a much weaker note, all in all watching it was one exhilarating roller-coaster ride. Not one dull moment, not one set of dialogue not worth re-watching.

And what made the movie succeed for me? Definitely the ongoing theme about scary movies. Aren't there elements of classic horror in this movie? The mysteriously locking door? The ever-elusive killer? The ominous music? The obligatory face-mask? The classic cat-and-mouse hunts? But in its own way, it was utterly unconventional. It pokes fun at horror movies like itself, such as when Sydney doesn't understand why the damsel-in-distress never runs out the door but runs up the stairs. She runs up the stairs less than five minutes later.

The blur between cinema and reality -- the intertwining of the Jamie Lee Curtis film and the going-ons in the house. The underlying theme that horror movies either produce or invigorate the psychos in society. The movie is reality to us in these two hours, but we still know it's a movie. That's what makes it fun - here we are, watching a horror movie in which characters essentially mimic other characters in other horror movies. The film is a conventional horror movie at horror's best making a statement against conventional horror movies. In fact, it wouldn't be exaggerating if I said "Scream" redefined the art of the scare. This is a movie where we never know what to expect - Will the virgin survive? Who is the killer? The victims aren't really victims, and everyone could be a suspect. Knowing who will be in the sequel does spoil part of the fun. For example, I knew that Randy couldn't die. The ambivalence: the movie seems to denounce the horror movie's influence on the public, when in fact it derives from and feeds on this very effect. There is no definite answer: Billy the killer sees life as "his movie," and he is a "psycho"; Sydney the "normal person" sees life as. . . life.

The power of the mask is indefinite, it shrouds the movie in myst - once the identities of the killers are revealed, however, the movie loses part of its fun. Because with the mask mass produced in factories in probably East Asia, everyone who puts it on could be the killer. That makes everyone a suspect. Wes Craven here cleverly drops notes of the "whodunnit" overtone, dripping paranoia all over the place. Be still my heart. The movie is just rich with suspense, for once a movie where we don't know who the killer is until the end--it keeps us guessing, another major factor of its success. A person in a black mask and black robe whipping about the place wreaking havoc and horror is nightmarishly elegant, but when the human form is exposed it's just another bloody violent movie. The process may be fun, but the result isn't nearly as satisfying. The final confrontation scene between Sydney and the killers is unnecessarily prolonged - this accounts for my feelings that the movie ended with a whimper. The last 10 minutes was the movie's winding down stage. The excitement had ended, the killer is revealed, and things just need to be wrapped up. Not as neatly wrapped up as I would like it though, but already more than I can ask for.

Let's talk about the cast. A great one, for sure, again, more than could be expected from relatively new and young actors and actresses. Everyone proved viable in their roles, and I'm sure each one of these actors and actresses will have a long and profitable career ahead of them. Notable are David Arquette's (Duey's) boyish, wimpy charm, Randy's rambling speeches (he delivers many pearls of wisdom....). Courtney Cox proves she can be a certifiable movie bitch and a female antihero, and never once remind us of nice-gal Monica Gellar; Drew Barrymore plays the small but unforgettable role of the terrified Stacey well. Neve Campbell's smile is so sweet at times we think we're looking at Julia Salinger, not Sydney. It is not until the later part of the movie do we get to see her in full kick-ass mode, strutting her Buffy material with enough sass and vigor to make Ripley step back in awe. When she grits her teeth and throws out an embittered: "Not in my movie," old-timers who've watched countless horror movie bimbos die no doubtedly cheer. Her era is the new era of horror movie feminism.

Like any good scary movie, "Scream" leaves temporary phobias in our mentality. For example, I'm sure I'll have plenty of behind-the-door-phobia and phonophobia for the next few days, as I have had shower-phobia after "Psycho" and "Under the Bed"-phobia after The X-Files' "Home." According to the Scary Movie Rules, there will be a sequel; and sequel there will be, soon to be released.

And according to the rules, I will go see the sequel.

What I want to see is Wes Craven try to live up to this legacy he has created, because it is also a rule that the sequel never lives up the original. It is my wish that Craven, the 90's Hitchcock who practically invented the modern-day bloodfest and outdid, revolutionized the format again with "Scream" can once again put his ingeniousness into work and present us with another ground-breaking, rule-defying movie. Scare us, baby.

Rating: B+ (First viewing, 12/7/97)

*BlackOmen made a nice observation. . . the janitor in that scene where the principle was killed: his name was Freddy, and he was wearing a red and black striped shirt, just like Freddie Kreuger.

*Suggestion: When you're watching this movie, unhook your phone. I won't begin to tell you how many times I jumped when my phone rang. The movie was so scary, I had to call my friend to calm myself down.

*The killer's mask perhaps is a nice allusion to the famous (and my favorite) painting by Edvard Munch (titled, coincidentally, "The Scream"). It depicts a man standing on a bridge, hands on cheeks a la MacCauley Culkin in "Home Alone," screaming. His head is roughly the same shape as the one depicted on the mask.

*I'm glad to see they're depicting high school bathroom floors accurately.

*Trivia tidbit: the song "Red Right Hand" was in the X-Files episode "Ascension."

*Is it just me, or does David Arquette look like a young version of Bill Pullman?

*I will not say BRB on the internet. I will not say BRB in the chat room. I will not say BRB on AOL.

*Another rule of horror movies even Sydney should learn. Do not go near a "dead body." I don't know how many times in movies "dead people" have still posed threats, most recently in "The Jackal." See, Randy knows that.